Jim McMahon

Attending my last wine show for the year was a real education. VINEA was held recently in Sierre, Switzerland; this was my second only visit to this country, the last visit being a skiing trip with the school in 1974 - 41 years ago!

VINEA is the largest and most prestigious wine show in Switzerland and this year’s event saw 170 wine judges from Switzerland and around the world come together in the beautiful town of Sierre in the canton (state) of Valais to judge Swiss and international wines. In the white wine department Switzerland is noted for a white grape called chasselas and in the reds, it’s noted for pinot noir.

I have tasted the former grape many times before at other wine shows, however, at this show together with our visits to other Swiss cantons and wineries, we tasted many different styles of chasselas. And I must say, I was very impressed with the varying styles of this grape variety.

At VINEA there were 3000 wines tasted from 550 producers representing all of Switzerland’s six wine regions with the canton of Valais winning 117 gold medals. The European way of judging wines is vastly different to the way we judge here in Australia. More on that subject some other time. It was disappointing to hear there were only nine New Zealand and 10 Australian wines entered into this show; surely we can do better than this to promote Aussie wines on the world stage.

Berton Vineyards 2013 Reserve Botrytis Semillon — known as “sticky” in the trade, is light gold in colour with green tinges around the rim. The apricots and lime come jumping out of the glass. The palate is fruit-driven and packed with lots of zesty lemon and lime, pineapple and apricot flavours, which come to the fore.

The acidity and the piercing fruit flavours combine beautifully on the palate which makes you sit up and take note of what you’re drinking. It’s an ideal wine to go with brie or camembert, dried apricots, quince and much more (rrp $17-375mls). Also try the 2015 Metal Label Vermentino — a white variety that shows a lovely youthful light pale lemon colour. The nose offers a myriad of tropical fruits, which come cascading down onto the palate. This fresh, crisp vermentino offers lashings of mouth-watering acidity on a dry finish (rrp $12).

The Catherine Vale 2014 Semillon is a lively green straw colour on the eye, the nose offering grassy, gooseberry, green apple and pineapple fruits. The palate is crisp and dry with those same fruit characters dancing across the palate in abundance (rrp $18). The crisp acidity is on the tangy, zesty side and is typical of young Hunter semillons.

Catherine Vale 2014 Arneis is a relative newcomer to the Hunter. This white grape variety hails from Piedmont in northern Italy. It’s not planted too much here in Australia with perhaps a couple of dozen vineyards throughout the country (with powdery mildew sometimes affecting this grape). Green straw in colour, the nose here offers green apple, almond and spicy notes. These same flavours flow onto the palate; the lively acidity and dried herbal fruit flavours give this wine a slight spring in its step. Anything different and you’ve got me (rrp $20).

Lowe Block 8 2012 Shiraz — Mudgee-based Lowe Wines has produced a stunning shiraz. The wine displays depth of colour — deep crimson/purple with bright pink hues. The nose is rich and perfumed with strong blackcurrant, mulberries and cinnamon spice more than evident. The French oak adds structure and hints of vanilla. The palate is full-bodied, powerful, dense and nicely textured.

The depth of fruit is balanced by the oak which is appealing; the tannins are assertive as you would expect in a wine of this calibre and age. It’s an excellent wine with pedigree for that special occasion (rrp $35).

Jim McMahon teaches hospitality at Sutherland TAFE.